By Maria Jose Subiria
Passersby might have seen a 52-passenger, 37,000-pound Mitsubishi train car traveling around an elevated track at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport last week, but it was only a test drive, an airport construction official says.
The train car is part of the airport's new Automated People Mover, and when it opens in November, it will connect the world's busiest airport to a new 98.6-acre Consolidated Rental Car facility (CONRAC) and the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park.
"People will no longer search for the connect shuttle," said Albert Snedeker, a spokesman for the airport's capital improvement projects. "There will be one train regardless of who you are renting from."
The people-mover is an elevated, 1.5-mile, dual-lane shuttle, which will zip up to 2,700 passengers per hour to and from the the airport's terminals to the rental car facility and the convention center.
"The shuttle ride [to the rental car facility] will take five minutes, and customers will end up at the CONRAC customer service desk, where they will pick up their vehicles," Snedeker said. He said the people-mover's stop at the convention center will make the GICC the only such facility in the United States connected to an international airport.
To capitalize on the ease of access to and from the airport provided by the people-mover, Hugh Austin, the convention center's executive director, said two new hotels are going up at the center, SpringHill Suites and a Marriott. Construction started Oct. 16.
The SpringHill Suites will open in the spring of 2010, and the Marriott will open in the summer of 2010.
With 11 months until its opening, Snedeker says Hartsfield-Jackson's CONRAC facility is 75 percent complete.
He said, this week, workers have yet to install flooring and drywall in the customer area, and must still place air conditioning, heating and communications lines.
The CONRAC site also includes a four-story, 8,670-space parking deck and a 27-acre quick turnaround site, Snedeker said, where rental agencies will clean and maintain their fleets of automobiles.
"Agencies will be assigned quick turnaround areas," he said. "The number of quick turnaround areas an agency will have will be determined by their size."
He said work continues on the parking deck and the turnaround space.
Construction on the $468 million CONRAC began in late March of 2006.
An estimated 2 million travelers use Hartsfield-Jackson's rental car services annually, and by consolidating the agencies in a central location, with direct people-mover acccess, airport officials hope to eliminate the need for 120 shuttles.
CONRAC and the people-movers are part of the airport's 10-year, $6-billion-plus capital development plan.
"It's a plan to enhance and create new capital infrastructure for the airport, and allows it to grow and continue to be an economic engine for the city and region," said Snedeker.